Directories: Just Say, er …Why?

I see that some directory scammers have been criminally charged in Canada, the sort of news which always lifts my spirits. Why – or perhaps how – companies continue to sign up for directories, diaries, wallcharts and the like (online and offline), has always mystified me. But they do. And don’t get me started on the magazines which don’t exist.

If you’re paying money to appear in something, of course you check to see if it exists, don’t you? Judging by the number of these things about, it would appear that there are enough people who don’t even do that. However, the much bigger problem as far as I’m concerned is not the amount of money going to fraudulent publications, but the amount of money going to publications which are, quite simply, rubbish. Why do they continue to get away with it? Because advertisers can’t be bothered to find out if they’re value for money, that’s why. Directories trade on fear. They don’t have to prove they’re any good, just convince you that your competition will all be there and you’ll look bad if you’re not there.

But if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you don’t think anybody’s going to use this directory (and does anybody use a directory nowadays?), why should it matter if you’re not in it? And even if you’ve not got the courage of your convictions to take that step, at least set up a way of measuring the results you get from the directory – a dedicated telephone number or URL …whatever it takes.

What are your experiences of directories nowadays? And are there differences between printed and web-based directories in terms of effectiveness?

Discussion

  1. Dave J.

    Thanks for catching my post! And you pose a great question. Somehow we marketers tend to be suckers for ‘getting our name out there’. When it takes thousands of impressions of a banner ad to generate even minimal traffic, don’t you wonder about how much waste that was?

  2. Michael

    I agree with you on printed directories… I can’t remember the last time my fingers walked through the yellow pages. However, online directories are one of the most effective marketing methods available today.

    We recently ran a survey that we sent out to our engineering related subscriber list. We asked a number of questions regarding how they source suppliers.

    One question was “How do you find new suppliers?” 82% said always and very likely to use ‘search engines’. The second most popular was ‘industry specific directories and search engines’. In third place is ‘Word of Mouth’, Trade magazines were further back.

    See survey here http://www.engnetglobal.com/survey/tREB2ku74B.html

    If over 50% of active engineering users say they use industry specific search engines and directories to source suppliers, I would say it’s a good measurable place to advertise.

    I agree that advertisers need to do their homework and verify that there are sufficient people using the directory, but that applies with all marketing.

  3. Chris Rand Post author

    Thanks Michael, I know it’s a subject you’re very knowledgeable about. We certainly both agree that measurement should always be the true arbiter of effectiveness.

  4. Jim

    My company has been on a very specific directory for the water industry for several years. This year I decided to check their statistics for click throughs to my website against Google analytics for my site. Their statistics showed over 200 click throughs for the year, (still expensive) considering it was costing over £800.00 per year), Google analytics showed 9 click thorughs for the whole year!!

    The poor salesman on being pushed on the point could not give me a reason for the discrepancy, although he said several customers had asked this question and their IT department could not give him an answer-I wonder why!

  5. Michael Cooney

    Jim,
    I would guess the main reason their clicks are higher answer is because their statistics system does not filter out search engine spiders. There are other reason but that would be my guess. We had that issue in the early days of stats.
    Now, we offer advertisers access to Google Analytics for their listing and that provides a much more accurate measure.
    One thing to remember is that Click Throughs is not always the best measure for a directory. On our directory an advertiser can have anywhere from 5 to 50 pages of content so visitors tend to get their information on our directory. This means they don’t need to click to a website to get further information. Even though the advertiser has 200 targeted people on his listing only 5% may click though.
    The best measure is sales, which is difficult to track but the next best method of measuring advertising effectiveness is ‘sales leads’, how many contacts request info or pricing….

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